While the confrontation between the Russian bloc countries and the US bloc was at the centre of the Cold War after 1945, China has the specificity of having clashed simultaneously with the two bloc leaders of the time, the USA and Russia. Thus the imperialist rivalries in the East have never been limited to conflicts between the two blocs: ever since its liberation from Japanese colonialism China has shown a tendency to try to “go it alone”. When the East-West confrontation ended in 1989, the seeds of a new confrontation between China and the USA, which had been retarded by the situation of the Cold War between 1972-1989, were to germinate. In the context of a general disorder on the imperialist stage, China's economic emergence necessarily set the clock ticking for new military confrontations with the USA.
The imperialist development in Asia has been marked by the specificity of India and China.
China entered the post-war period devastated by militarism: repeated intervention by Western imperialism during the 19th century, the collapse of central state power and the rise of warlordism, Japanese invasion and more than ten years of bitter and barbaric warfare, then civil war between the Kuomingtang and the Red Army, until the Communist Party of China (CPC) seized power in 1949. All this left the country in a state of extreme economic backwardness (made even more catastrophic by the attempt to catch up with the developed world during the "Great Leap Forward") and militarily weak, dependent on the sheer weight of numbers of a poorly armed peasant army. In the case of India, whose economy was equally backward in relation to foreign competitors due to the long weight of colonialism, the new ruling faction which took over power after independence in 1947 aggravated this condition with its semi-isolationist policy. Both India and China cut themselves off in different degrees from the world market. Thus Stalinism in the specific form of Maoism in China, semi-isolation in the specific form of Ghandism in India were historic chains which meant the two rivals started their emergence from a low initial level of development. The determination of the Chinese ruling class to adapt its forces substantially and with a long-term view to challenging the USA is thus all the more striking.
Since 1989 a change has been unfolding in Asia's imperialist hierarchy: overall, China and India have been on the rise, Japan has been on a relative decline, while Russia, after almost disappearing from the world scene after the implosion of the USSR, is making something of a comeback. The position of the only remaining superpower, the USA, has been weakened – not only in Asia but throughout the world. The USA is now struggling to maintain its superiority in Asia.
The situation in Asia is dominated by a complex web of shifting alliances and counter-alliances. Each state is trying to fend off the ambitions of its rivals, while all of them want to restrain China's dominance without becoming mere puppets of the only power able to confront China: the USA. This web of alliances can be seen all along the different zones of conflict from North Korea via Taiwan, the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, the Indian Ocean, to the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.